Effective communication is the cornerstone of a successful project. It’s the secret sauce that helps you get a project done on time, on budget, and gives you a finished project that makes your clients happy. While there are a lot of factors that determine a successful project, if you don’t have effective communication there’s ZERO chance of success. Yep, nada. Zilch.
What is effective? Let’s take a look at my best tips for communicating with your contractors and clients:
1. Communication Is a Two-Way Street
No matter how good we are, there is not one of us who can complete a project alone. Just as interior design is a collaboration of many experts, so is communication. It’s not one-sided at all, and while we’re certainly not all communication experts, as the interior designer you MUST take the communication lead. You need to organize all of the communications both to and from your subcontractors and your clients. Everyone has to be on the same page, and it’s your job to be sure that happens. But you also need to keep up with (and pay attention to!) what’s being communicated to YOU. If you’re paying attention, you can even read between the lines and head issues off before they happen.
I have a great client couple who I have done multiple projects for and I am their “interpreter.” We laugh, but when he can’t explain what he means to his wife (and visa versa!) they call me over to have me communicate. Yep, I have to read between the lines:)
2. Plan Your Communication
As basic as this might sound, the first step in effective communication is … you must communicate! It will never be effective if it’s never done. As we juggle multiple projects, priorities and personalities, communication can often fall by the wayside. We always have good intentions, but we’re only human after all.
But nothing wreaks more havoc on a job site than NOT following through! So how do I make sure that I don’t miss an important update to my design project team or a weekly email update for my clients? I calendar my communication responsibilities in (on?!) my phone and on Asana.
When I schedule tasks and checkpoints, my projects move and flow in near-perfect rhythm. I waltz through my days because I can act promptly and proactively. When there is a curveball, I manage my time as effectively as possible because I have my tasks and communication responsibilities all documented so I can see what I need to do and how I need to adjust. Nothing gets missed.
And most importantly, everyone involved in the project is up to date on decisions and schedules. Including all subs, builders, and clients. If you schedule regular communication, it all becomes so much easier!
3. Consistency Is Key
When I communicate with my design project team, I don’t leave anything to chance. They come to rely on when and how they will hear from me. I try to be consistent in my communication method (communicating with them in the way that’s best for them) and timing. The only way I ensure I’m hitting those communication checkpoints is to schedule them into my calendar. A-MEN!
When my window treatment fabricator and installer need a walkthrough, to go over a very detailed PowerPoint and a phone call or two to discuss the design details and answer questions, I schedule those tasks and appointments in my calendar.
But the contractors I work with like (and need!) several calls each week, emails, images and monthly or bi-monthly walkthroughs. More talk and showing, less writing. What do I do? I schedule that in my calendar.
And I consistently communicate with my clients! They get weekly email updates, as well as regular phone calls. I want them to be completely up to date on the entire project so they won’t have any worries or questions.
4. Keep a Record
I find that even when some people get the first part of communication down — they actually communicate in a way that’s best for their trade partners and clients — they forget a very essential step. They don’t write anything down. No matter what, you MUST document the action and outcomes of your conversations. Every single one.
Again, we’re human. We’re busy. And we certainly tax our brains with too much information. And it’s nearly impossible to keep everything straight without writing things down. A critical part of communication is to document what was discussed, who is responsible for what and what the next steps are.
Have you ever checked back in on a project, and your trade partner looked at you and said, “I thought you were calling to check on that?” Or have you had a phone conversation with a client only to later have them say, “I didn’t agree to that!” You have to take notes, and send a follow-up email after every phone call and in-person meeting! It keeps things clear and you have documentation.
To avoid frustrating and project-delaying issues like that, I use the ROI Team Meeting Notes which you can download here for FREE! Once I fill it out, I email it to everyone so we can all see what we agreed to and who will be doing what.
Take the lead and make sure that your communication is on track. Consistent communication + happy trade partners and clients = successful project!
PS – For even BETTER communication, my Return on Interiors system offers you fabulous product guides, tools to keep your project on track and on budget, and organized like a dream! Click here to learn more!